Ruling: UC Must Refund $38 Million in Fees

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Analysis: UC to reimburse professional school students

A recent court ruling ordered the University of California to pay back professional school students whose fees were increased after they enrolled.

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Correction Appended

Superior Court Judge John Munter ruled March 10 that the University of California must pay about $38 million in refunds and interest to professional school students whose fees were unduly raised by the university.

The ruling was a victory for current and former students in UC law, business, medical, dentistry, nursing and dental programs who filed suit in 2005 alleging that the university raised professional school fees despite longtime university policy stating fee levels would remain at the same level as when a student first enrolled. University officials said they are considering appealing the decision.

Munter said in his ruling that many of the students enrolled at the university were under the impression-derived from the online university fee guide-that the university could not raise professional school fees.

"No University document describes the commitment to apply professional degree increases only to incoming students as having been rescinded or revoked by the Regents," he said. "The University simply began deleting references to that policy in Fall 2004 without an explanation to its students."

UCLA School of Law graduate Andrea Luquetta-lead plaintiff in the case-said the university violated its own policy in raising fees and should take into account the effect fee hikes have on students' future careers.

"The reason that a lot of people go to UC professional schools is because it is affordable, and it is particularly important for those that want to use professional degrees in non-lucrative areas," she said.

Munter said in the ruling that a "vast majority" of the plaintiffs had accepted admission to the university in the 2002-03 academic year. But UC spokesperson Leslie Sepuka said in an e-mail that the declining financial position of the university in fiscal year 2003-04 indicated that fees had to be raised.

"The university never made any promise to these students that their fees would remain constant while they were enrolled in their professional programs," she said in the e-mail. "By the time these students enrolled in 2003-04, it was very clear that the policy stating fees would remain constant was no longer in effect. It was removed because the funding level could no longer support the fee ceiling."

Javier Panzar of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Correction: Monday, March 15, 2010
The original version of this article stated that Superior Court Judge John Munter ruled that the University of California must pay about $28 million in refunds and interest to professional school students whose fees were unduly raised by the university. In fact Munter ruled the university must pay $38 million.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Zach E.J. Williams is the university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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